Embracing the Detour
For our family, “embracing the detour” has meant continuing to seek joy in the midst of great suffering. Findley and I had been married a little over a year when I found out I was pregnant with Virginia. Not my choice for timing, but as my 101 year old great aunt used to say, “Those things happen when you get married.” We got over our pre-baby jitters and as my October of 2003 due date grew closer, we couldn’t have been more excited.
I have always been a chronic worrier. If you take too long at the grocery store, I assume you have had a wreck. Every mole is precancerous, every plane is doomed to crash. Even I could not have dreamed up what happened to Virginia. I was the only patient on the labor and delivery floor at Baptist Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama. The baby was on a fetal monitor, but our nurse wanted to go home to check on her sick kids. She gave me a huge dose of demerol and phenergan without a doctor’s order and I passed out. She went home for three hours, during which time there was no one to monitor Virginia’s heart tracings.
My husband was asleep in the chair next to me because it was after 11 p.m. I slept from 1 cm to 8 cm- if you have ever had a baby, that will show you just how much medication the nurse gave me. I woke up in tremendous pain and sent my husband to find our nurse. He couldn’t find her, but woke up our obstetrician who was asleep in the doctor’s lounge. Upon looking at Virginia’s heart strip, he immediately ordered a stat c-section. When she was born, she wasn’t breathing and proceeded to have several seizures during the first day of her life, one lasting over three hours.
It turns out that Virginia was in trouble about 11 pm and not born until 3:08 am. If our nurse had been watching, it would have been obvious. It could have been as simple as repositioning me or putting me on oxygen, but she never gave us the chance. Many OBs have looked at Virginia’s heart strip, and they all agree she should have been delivered by 11:45 pm and that from that point on, there was nothing reassuring about her heart tracings.
The fact that Virginia’s injuries were preventable has been a source of tremendous pain for our family. I spent the first few years of her life longing to go back in time and relive those critical hours. Both my father and father-in-law are physicians and I just never thought this type of negligence could strike my child. Virginia will never sit up, walk, talk, or feed herself. She was robbed of experiencing so much of the beauty that this world has to offer. For the first 3 years of her life, she cried almost without ceasing because she was so miserable. I did not know that pain like that even existed. Findley and I felt like we had fallen into an abyss of darkness.
If I had known what the future would look like when she was born, I would have fallen apart. But day by day the Lord has given us the strength we need. I try not to look too far in the future and I feel like we are finally starting to do more than just survive. It was a shock, but life has a way of creeping back after tragedy- music starts to sound uplifting again, food starts to taste good again, and the sunshine looks beautiful again. For a while, all of the beauty of life was definitely muted.
I have learned that miracles don’t always look like what we want. No, Virginia was not physically healed, but if you would have told me how much joy our family would have now in the early years of her life, I wouldn’t have believed you. I have slowly watched as the Lord has turned our tremendous sorrow into joy. He has been with us every step of the way.
There are still really hard days when Virginia’s suffering is almost more than I can bear. It is impossible to imagine what she goes through on a daily basis, yet she has more joy than any other child I know. She has no cognitive impairments and certainly knows how different she is, but instead of choosing to be bitter, she chooses to be joyful. Our life is certainly not what I imagined. We will always spend most of our time caring for Virginia, but she has embraced her detour with vigor and that is what inspires the rest of us to do the same.